Westward the Course of Empire

Westward the Course of Empire

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by Mark Ruwedel
     
 

Mark Ruwedel (b. 1954) has photographed the American West for the past twenty-five years, revealing the narratives—both geological and human—contained within the landscape. This stunning book presents more than 70 prints from Ruwedel’s ongoing series Westward the Course of Empire, an inventory of the residual landforms created by the scores

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Overview

Mark Ruwedel (b. 1954) has photographed the American West for the past twenty-five years, revealing the narratives—both geological and human—contained within the landscape. This stunning book presents more than 70 prints from Ruwedel’s ongoing series Westward the Course of Empire, an inventory of the residual landforms created by the scores of railroads built in the American and Canadian West since 1869.

The grades, cuts, tunnels, and trestles depicted in Ruwedel’s photographs speak to a past triumph of technology over what was often perceived as hostile terrain, as well as to the desire and struggle to create wealth and power from the land. Long abandoned (and in some cases never completed), the railroads also evoke the futility of the enterprise. This book is thus a sublime yet restrained elegy to the land and to the follies and wonders of human ambition. 

Editorial Reviews

The California Territorial Quarterly - Richard H. Dillon

"The beautiful, oversized, full-page views made by Ruwedel's large-format camera are reminiscent of the work of Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge. This is a very attractive book on a subject ("ghost" railroads) that is ignored by all but the best railway historians, like David Myrick; and, even then, not usually from an aesthetic point of view."—Richard H. Dillon, The California Territorial Quarterly
Library Journal

This first major monograph on the works of American photographer Ruwedel (art, California State Univ. at Long Beach) features more than 70 full-page black-and-white prints with handwritten titles from the photographer's ongoing series picturing residual landforms from the American and Canadian railroads built since 1869. Ruwedel has walked or driven more than 130 abandoned railroad lines since 1994 with a large-format camera and tripod. This book and Ruwedel's series take their title from several 19th-century images, but they are not derivative; instead, they illustrate how time and forces not limited to human-made ones continually shape the landscape. Prints are arranged by subject in three parts in the front of the book; the texts-a one-page introduction by the artist and a seven-page essay by Reynolds (Henry J. Heinz II Director, Yale Univ. Art Gallery)-thumbnails, and colophon are at the back; and the title is imprinted on the back cover, leading readers from back to front and, like the photographs, encouraging viewers to question past, present, and future. For its uniqueness, this monograph belongs in library collections that showcase the careers of contemporary photographers. Recommended for large public, undergraduate, and special library art book collections.
—Cheryl Ann Lajos

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300141344
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
09/28/2008
Pages:
180
Product dimensions:
11.30(w) x 14.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Mark Ruwedel lives and works in Long Beach, California, where he teaches photography at the California State University at Long Beach. Jock Reynolds is the Henry J. Heinz II Director at the Yale University Art Gallery.

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